The Pittsburgh Steelers had some truly great safeties in the 1970s, even if none of them have made it, as of yet, to the Hall of Fame. While Donnie Shell retired as one of the career leaders in interceptions, Mike Wagner and Glen Edwards were no slouches either.
There were Carnell Lake and Darren Perry in the 1990s, and then in the 2000s, you had the great period of Troy Polamalu, who overlapped first with Chris Hope and then finally paired with Ryan Clark to make one of the very best safety tandems in team history, if not the best.
The Steelers would settle for anything close to that with their current pairing of fourth-year Sean Davis, a former second-round pick, and their 2018 first-round selection, Terrell Edmunds. Edmunds recently participated in a team activity hosting a football camp in Mexico City, and got the opportunity to meet with Shell for the first time along the way.
“We rode down on the plane from Charlotte together. I talked old-school. He talked new-school”, Shell said in a video posted on the team’s website. He added, “I expect him to make a lot of big plays for the Steeler Nation this year”.
During his rookie season, Edmunds started 15 of 16 games but played rotationally in the one game he did not start. He recorded one interception, coming against the Baltimore Ravens back in Week Four of the regular season. He also had an interception in the preseason.
“It’s always nice to talk to a legend, pick his brain really. The plane ride over here, that was my first time meeting him, so I was star-struck for a second, you could say”, Edmunds said of the experience of meeting Shell for the first time.
Shell recorded 51 interceptions during his 14-year career for the Steelers, which spanned from 1974—when he was signed as a college free agent amid a historic draft class that produced four Hall of Famers—even though he would not become a full-time starter for a few years, playing behind Wagner and Edwards, the latter of whom would be traded in part because Shell showed he could take over.
Shell recorded 34 interceptions over a six-year period between 1979 and 1984, with at least one interception every year of his career. In fact, he had at least three interceptions in every season he was a full-time starter until his final year in 1987 at the age of 35.
“Just to mimic anything that he did on the field would be tremendous for me, so that’s just why I’m trying to mimic my game after him, guys like Troy, other big-time guys that came from Steeler Nation”, Edmunds said after meeting with and talking to Shell.
The Steelers will need that from him. Shell recorded at least four interceptions in a season seven times. They haven’t had any player do that in the last seven seasons—Polamalu being the most recent to do it in 2010, with seven picks.